Owen Diehl, first Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship recipient

Owen Diehl, first Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship recipient

Photo courtesy of: Jennifer Roy, OHIO Chillicothe Health & Wellness Center Director

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Owen Diehl: First recipient of Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship


Meet Owen Diehl - the recipient of the first annual Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship. Owen is an Ohio University Chillicothe student who, at age ten, was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma, a very aggressive type of cancer that can grow in a matter of hours. 

Jennifer Roy, Ohio University Chillicothe Health & Wellness Director and cancer survivor, met with Owen to talk about his cancer fighting experience and how the Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship has helped him further his education.

Owen’s cancer story began something like this.

It was early July 2007. Owen was in his room playing play station when he realized he was having trouble eating. He couldn't swallow without having a drink. Owen remarked, “I knew something was wrong so I told my mom. When she looked in my throat, she noticed that my left tonsil was so swollen that it almost touched the other side.”

The family was due to leave on vacation the next day. After a trip to urgent care, Owen was diagnosed with tonsillitis and given antibiotics. The swelling did go down, but that only lasted until the antibiotics were finished. Even more concerned, Owen’s parents, Don and Melissa Diehl, tried to get him in to see a recommended doctor; however, no appointments were available until Aug. 19 which would have been almost a month away. Little did they know how significant this date would later become.

Not wanting to wait until mid-August, Owen's parents got an earlier appointment with another doctor toward the end of July. Owen underwent a tonsillectomy and the removed tissue was sent to the lab to be analyzed. When the doctor came out of surgery, he told Owen’s parents that he thought it was likely cancer. As all parents would be, his parents were devastated. “My dad was so distraught that he walked out of the hospital and just sat on the sidewalk for hours,” commented Owen.  

On Aug. 19, Owen’s parents got the call from the doctor with news confirming all their fears - "Your son has cancer."

Owen remembers his dad picking him up from the babysitter. While Owen waited outside his dad informed the babysitter of the situation as she was a cancer survivor herself. When Don went outside, Owen realized he had been crying. "My dad never cries," remarked Owen. That day Owen and his parents headed to Nationwide Children's Hospital to begin his treatments.

Owen learned of his cancer from his mother. Owen commented, “My mom has always told me that it was the hardest thing she ever had to do. Followed by the hardest question she ever answered which was when I asked, "Am I going to die, mom?" 

Owen went through two rounds of chemotherapy and underwent several tests to make sure cancer had not spread to any other areas of his body. He had full body scans, spinal taps, and bone marrow tests. The results were positive as his cancer had been isolated to just the tonsil, which was completely removed. 

Owen has now been cancer free for eleven years and is no longer required to see his oncologist.

Owen is starting his junior year at Ohio University Chillicothe. As the first recipient of the Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship, Owen shared his thoughts about the meaning of the scholarship, "It's wonderful! It’s good to know that there are scholarships out there for people who have gone through situations like this.”  

Owen is working towards his Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) because he wants to give back. Owen had a close relationship with his medical team, and because of that he wants to be that “special” person for someone else. 

Two particularly inspirational people on his team made a big impact in his life, Dr. Corn, and his nurse, Lindsey Gordon. "Dr. Corn was the coolest doctor,” remarked Owen. “We had a special handshake that we did every visit." Nurse Lindsey also made an impact on Owen. He shared, "Lindsey got a bear for me with my name on it. She also ran marathons and did a triathlon for lymphoma in my honor. She was a great nurse and took really good care of me.”

Owen loves to go to the gym. Due to Owen spending so much time in the hospital and having to take steroids as part of his treatment he had gained a lot of weight. When he was finished with treatments, he tried to lose weight but became too thin and weak to play football. Therefore, now he works out six days a week and is at a healthy weight. 

Roy commented, “Owen’s story is an example as to why the Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship was created. As a two-time breast cancer survivor, I wanted to create something as a way of giving back in lieu of all the support that I received during my cancer journey.” In turn, the scholarship fund was created, which led to the organization of the Hilltoppers for Hope 5K in which all proceeds from the event go to the Hilltoppers for Hope Scholarship fund to be awarded to an OHIO Chillicothe student. As a health advocate, Roy organized the 5K to promote wellness and to help support a fellow cancer survivor. 

The Chillicothe campus cares deeply for its students and this community – completely supporting the idea of the event and scholarship fund. “It is so wonderful to have a community wellness event that can make a difference in someone's life,” remarked Roy.

The 2nd annual Hilltoppers for Hope 5k run will be held on Sept. 16, 2018. Last year’s event raised $1500 for the scholarship fund and with everyone’s support we can achieve more!

Owen is planning to attend the 5K on Sept. 16 in which he will start the runners off before joining them for the run. Come out to meet him! 

Individuals interested in participating in the Hilltoppers for Hope 5K may register at the Ohio University Chillicothe Health and Wellness Center, or online at www.getmeregistered.com/hilltoppersforhope5k. Register before Sept. 3 to receive a free race t-shirt! Door prizes will also be given after the race.

For questions regarding the event, please contact Roy at royj@ohio.edu or 740.774.7716.